Islamic State purportedly sets new deadline for hostage swap

Islamic State purportedly sets new deadline for hostage swap

AMMAN/TOKYO - An audio message purportedly from a Japanese journalist being held by Islamic State militants said a Jordanian air force pilot also captured by the group would be killed unless an Iraqi female prisoner in Jordan was released by sunset on Thursday.

The message appeared to postpone a previous deadline set on Tuesday in which the journalist, Kenji Goto, said he would be killed within 24 hours if the Iraqi was not freed.

The latest audio recording, which could not be verified by Reuters, was posted on YouTube early on Thursday. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that chances were high it was Goto's voice in the recording.

"I am Kenji Goto. This is a voice message I've been told to send to you. If Sajida al-Rishawi is not ready for exchange for my life at the Turkish border by Thursday sunset 29th of January Mosul (Iraq) time, the Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh will be killed immediately," the voice in the recording says.

Jordan said on Wednesday it had received no assurance that al-Kasaesbeh was safe and that it would go ahead with a proposed prisoner swap only if he was freed.

The audio tape message implied that the Jordanian pilot would not be part of the exchange deal, indicating any swap would be between Goto - a veteran war reporter - and al-Rishawi. Any swap that left out the pilot would not go down well with the public in Jordan, where officials have insisted he is their priority.

There was no immediate comment from Jordanian government officials, but a security official said the authorities were trying to verify the authenticity of the recording and were coordinating with their Japanese counterparts.

On Tuesday, a video was released purporting to show the Japanese national saying he had 24 hours to live unless Jordan released al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman on death row for her role in a 2005 suicide bomb attack that killed 60 people in the capital Amman.

Jordanian government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said earlier that Jordan was ready to release al-Rishawi if Kasaesbeh was spared, but made clear that she would be held until the pilot was freed.

Kasaesbeh was captured after his jet crashed in northeastern Syria in December during a bombing mission against Islamic State, which has captured large tracts of Syria and Iraq. He is from an important Jordanian tribe that forms the backbone of support for the Hashemite monarchy.

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